Disciplined Agile

Coordinating Team Cadences Within A Program

The Disciplined Agile tool kit, unlike most agile scaling frameworks, does not insist that sub-teams/squads within a program follow the same iteration/sprint cadence (or even that sub-teams follow an iteration-based lifecycle). What we mean by that is that the squads don’t need to necessarily all have the same sprint length. For example, one sub-team may have a one-week iteration length, five sub-teams have a two-week iteration length, and two sub-teams follow DAD’s continuous delivery life cycle which doesn’t have iterations at all. Or you may find a program where every sub-team has two-week iterations. Or a program may choose to have all teams take a continuous delivery approach. Each of these strategies make sense in certain situations, but none of them make sense in all situations. There is no single “best practice” – Context counts.

The Coordinate Activities process goal includes advice for how to coordinate within a program team, as you can see in Figure 1. Coordination across a program, a team of teams, typically requires you to implement several strategies. The cadences followed by your sub-teams will affect when it makes sense for them to coordinate. 

Copyright Project Management Institute All Rights Reserved Coordinate Activities v5.3 Share Information Nonsolo work (pairing, mobbing)Informal reviewsFormal reviewsIndividual (solo) work Artifact Ownership Collective ownershipDisparate ownership Coordinate Within Team Coordination meetings/scrum meetingsJust-in-time (JIT) modelingJust-in-time (JIT) planningLook-ahead modeling/planningRegular conversationsStatus meetingsVisualize work and workflow Facilitate a Working Session Agile modeling sessionOpen spaceBig room planningJoint application design (JAD) sessions Coordinate Across Program Architecture owner teamCommon cadencesCoordination meetings/scrum meetingsDivisor cadencesFacilitated working sessionManagement teamOpen spacesProduct coordination teamProduct owner teamProgram manager/coordinatorScrum of scrums (SoS)Visualize work and workflow Coordinate Across the Organization Enterprise professional as team memberEnterprise roadmaps (detailed)Enterprise roadmaps (light)Enterprise service teamsFacilitated working session Coordinate Release Schedule Continuous deployment (CD)/release streamRegular releases/release trainRelease windowsUnique project releasesNone Coordinate Between Locations Move team to a single locationGather physically at critical timesAdopt collaborative toolsAmbassadorsBoundary spanners

Figure 1. The Coordinate Activities process goal diagram.

Click the diagram to open the interactive DA Browser, where you can learn more about the decision points and options of this goal.

There are two strategies for coordinating team cadences within a program. Both of these strategies are exhibited in Figure 2 and they are contrasted in Table 1. The two strategies are:

  1. Common cadences. The subteams/squads have iterations/sprints that are the same length. For example, subteams B, C, and D have a common cadence of two weeks where they can choose to coordinate their next batch of work given that their previous batch is "done." Note that they can still integrate their work at any point in time, they do not have to restrict ourselves to the end of an iteration.
  2. Divisor cadences. The subteams/squads have iterations/sprints with lengths that are divisors of a larger coordination cadence. For example, subteams A, B, and F have iteration lengths of 1, 2, and 4 weeks respectively which are divisors of 4 weeks. Subteams A, B, and E have iterations of length 1, 2, and 3 respectively and therefore are divisors of 6 weeks. The "divisor number" is important because that is the earliest point that the teams can coordinate their next batch of work given that their previous batch is now "done." Note that they can still integrate their work at any point in time, they do not have to restrict ourselves to "divisor points."
Iteration Cadences

Figure 2. Coordinating iteration cadences within a program (click to enlarge).

Cadence Strategy


Common cadences

  • Easy to coordinate system integration across teams.
  • Effective at coordinating medium-sized batches of work across teams.
  • Subteams are forced to have the same iteration length, and iterations in general, whether it makes sense for them or not.
  • Difficult when people are assigned to multiple subteams because critical ceremonies/working sessions overlap.
  • Supports an agile release train (ART) easily. 

Divisor cadences

  • Provides explicit points in time to coordinate large batches of work.
  • Provides flexibility to teams to vary their iteration length (or to not have iterations at all).
  • Increases the cadence for integrating "done" releases, which in turn increases the cycle time to delivery.
  • Supports an agile release train (ART) although with less flexibility than common cadences. 

Table 1. Comparing the two cadence strategies.

March 2022

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